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Amazing Race, Amazing Grace

It looked hopeless.  The young man had never swum in a competition let alone a team relay.  By the time he touched the pool wall for the next swimmer to go, the relay was in last of the seven teams by a long ways.  But something began to change.  The next swimmer took off and managed to catch the field.  Though still in last, the relay team was still in the fight.  The third swimmer caught and overtook half the teams, and by the time the fourth and final swimmer finished his leg of the relay and the race, the team everyone thought would finish dead last ended up winning by a landslide…or waterslide.   (Pause for Thought:  “I have seen something else under the sun:  The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.”—Ecclesiastes 9:11  Have you ever been asked to do something you felt you were not qualified to do?  Did you accept the challenge?  How did it turn out?)
 
My son was the second swimmer on the team that won the relay.  As a proud, and shocked, father, I can tell you watching this race was the highlight of my summer.  I asked my son about the thoughts going through his mind as he prepared to enter the water in a distant last place.  He replied, “Anthony (third swimmer) said he owed me if I got us back into the race.  I told him he didn’t owe me anything.  I’m swimming for first prize.”  His comment started me thinking about Jesus and His purpose on earth and how he handled it.  I can imagine him saying, “You don’t owe me anything (though we owe Him everything).  The debt will be paid.  I’m living and dying to the glory of the Father.”   (Pause for Thought:  “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”—Hebrews 12:1-2  What difficult, seemingly hopeless, circumstances are you facing?  How does knowing Jesus went through something as insurmountable as death help you in your struggle?  Is there someone with whom you can share your thoughts and feelings?)
 
The air became electric as the four boys received their first place awards.  Fans and spectators were still marveling at the tremendous comeback.  A jackhammer couldn’t remove the smile on the first swimmer’s face.  Only the coach stood in perfect confidence of what he just witnessed.  While people said they never thought the team would win the relay, he said he knew full well the outcome.  He knew the individual dynamic of all four swimmers, and how gracefully, under pressure, the entire team would finish first.   (Pause for Thought:  “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”—I Corinthians 9:24-25.  How does knowing that Jesus finished first in life-living and knowing how he accomplished this feat help us as believers run our races?  What, do you think, are key attributes for us as Christ’s brothers and sisters to train and perfect as we live to win the crown?  How does grace factor into your training?)
 

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First Days

I vividly remember a moment of my first full day of school.  The school I was attending was vastly different from the one I attended my Kindergarten year.  Buses ran different routes, kid’s faces were frightening, and the playground was large and lonely.  I scaled the tallest play apparatus I could find, and planned to ride out the storm of my first day of school alone and scared.  Suddenly, I saw a pair of blue eyes peering at me over the floor of the platform as their owner climbed to the top.  Steve sat next to me and inquired how I was doing.  He knew perfectly well.  I told him of my fear and uncertainty, and he reassured me it would be OK.  His first-grader wisdom was just what I needed to get past my first day.   (Pause for Thought:  “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.  The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him’.”—Genesis 2:15&18.  What “first days” do you remember in your life (school, sports, jobs, etc.)?  Whom did God place in your life at that time to be a “suitable helper”?)
 
Steve and I would continue to cross paths throughout our elementary school years, and our relationship to one another really peaked during our middle school years.  Steve was gregarious, enthusiastic and fearless about everything.  I was completely the opposite.  I relied heavily on my relationship with Christ to “get by”.  Steve noticed that my love of Jesus was everything to me, and he wanted to pursue my passion with his passions.  He wanted to join the church and youth group I attended.  His parents weren’t certain this would be a good idea.  After meeting my church family (which included my mom and dad) and allowing me to be their guide for their first day, Steve’s mom, dad, and middle brother began attending church along with Steve.  Steve’s entire family, including his oldest brother, would eventually surrender their lives to the Lord.   (Pause for Thought:  “Then Ananias went to the house and entered it.  Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit’.”—Acts 9:17.  Can you imagine Paul’s (Saul) first day as a follower of Christ?  How difficult would it have been for Paul to go from his anti-Christ attitude to an ambassador of Jesus without Ananias?  How have you struggled and who have you seen struggling with their “first days”?)
 
 I vividly remember my first day of driver’s education.  Steve and his family moved to South Carolina two-years prior to my summer driving course.  A mutual friend of Steve’s and mine asked if I had heard the news.  Steve was killed in a motorcycle accident a week before.  I cried.  Many years after Steve’s ascension, my church held a reunion, and Steve’s mom and dad travelled to Chelsea, Michigan to celebrate the church’s tenure.  When I saw them, we didn’t know what to say to each other.  The Spirit gave me the words to express how glad I was Steve found me my first day of school, and how it is only fitting Steve would find me to show me around on my first day in Heaven.  (Pause for Thought:  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified”—Romans 8:28-30.  What “first days” are heading your way?  How is God calling you to help another in their “first day”?)
 

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Victory in Energy Conservation

On May 1, I saw my first hummingbird of 2019.  I witnessed this tiny creature staring at his reflection in our sliding-glass door, as I refreshed myself after mowing with an iced tea and tunes.  It pleased my heart to know this bird had successfully made his 500 mile non-stop journey across the Gulf of Mexico.   (Pause for Thought:  “I said, ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!  I would fly away and be at rest.”—Psalm 55:6.  Is something causing you unrest in your soul, or body, or spirit right now?  What do you do to find rest and calm?  How effective and lasting is your prescription for rest?)
 
Weighing no more than a copper penny, the ruby-throated hummingbird has been designed by God to illustrate the victory in conserving time and energy to achieve life purposes.  The hummingbird is so tiny; it uses energy an exorbitant rate.  To make its non-stop flight migration from Central America, over the Gulf of Mexico, to the United States at the end of every winter, the hummingbird will take a rest…a Sabbath.  It does something most other birds don’t—it hibernates for a night or two before its journey.  This allows the bird to store its energy reserves for the long flight.  Without this energy, the hummingbird will plummet into the Gulf of Mexico.   (Pause for Thought:  “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my Holy Day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s Holy Day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.  For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”—Isaiah 58:13-14.  What causes your “feet” from honoring God and His day?  What have been the results in relationship to Jesus, others, and you?  What does calling the Sabbath a “delight” mean to you?)
 
A German proverb states, “What is the use of running when we are not on the right road?”  Even the hummingbird will exhaust itself in an attempt to use the exact perch hundreds of times after it has fallen or been removed.  Eventually, the bird will come to its senses and find another perch to start its seasonal rhythms for its life purpose of survival.  God took a rest after completing His goal and before continuing His present day purposes.  Shouldn’t we measure our ways of efficiency based on how our Lord efficiently completes His purposes?  Our Father knows how to work smarter instead of working harder.  Even the tiny hummingbird, whose wings provide lift and propulsion during downward and upward thrusts, is a reminder of God’s efficiency in and through us if we but wait on Him.   (Pause for Thought:  “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.”—Psalm 37:7.  Is there a difference in how the world obtains success and how God wants us to obtain success?  Is there a difference in the pace between the world’s way and God’s way?  Give an example as to why or why you don’t think there is a difference.)
 

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The Advocate

Spring has arrived, and with it, the nation’s pastime…Baseball.  In my youth, the baseball season-opener marked the beginning of five months of opportunity, revelry, and comradery.  It has been over fifteen years since I’ve played a game of baseball or softball, but my mind and soul still wander to the green fields of yesteryear and the names with faces of those who accompanied me in my athletic pursuits on the ball diamond.   (Pause for Thought:  “All this I have spoken while still with you.  But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”—John 14:25-26.  What times or places remind you of people you have not seen for a while?  How did these people (or this person) influence you to the point of remembrance?)
 
I’ve lately been thinking of a circumstance that happened when I was thirteen years-old playing catcher for a baseball team who’d drafted me quite unexpectedly.  The team had been together for two or three years.  The coach selected me from my old team to replace the catcher on his team.  He moved his regular catcher to second base to make room for me as the everyday catcher.
 
I played well for the team until one play at a key moment in a game against my new team’s arch rival.  With the winning run on third base, the hitter bunted the ball.  From my catcher’s position, I lost sight of the ball; looking for it on the ground at my feet, the air over my head, and the fence at the backstop.  While frantically searching, the winning run for the other team crossed home plate.  To my dismay, the third baseman had the ball all the time, and I failed to notice.  (Pause for Thought:  “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.  But if anybody does sin, we have an Advocate with the FatherJesus Christ, the righteous one.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”—I John 2:1-2.  Have you ever felt like the “weakest link” in a family, community, or group?  How did you deal with these feelings?  Have you ever felt like you were a “spiritual weak link”?  Who did you turn to?)
 
The damage had been done.  The coach worked us hard and silently the first part of the following practice.  After about an hour, he made us sit on the bleachers.  He began to voice his displeasure with me in no uncertain terms.  The coach even did his best whirling dervish imitation to mock my failed attempt to locate the bunted ball.
 

Then something happened out of nowhere.  As I sat alone at the end of the bleachers, covered in my sweat and the dust from the field, Charlie, our centerfielder stood up and interrupted the coach’s mocking.  Charlie was a few years older than me and the brother of the boy I had replaced as catcher.  He said to the coach he was wrong to single me out for the loss, and he pointed to the team’s inability to win the game.  Charlie came over to me and shook my hand, and all my teammates surrounded me.  I saw Jesus in Charlie that day, and I can’t help but remember both of them every Spring.  (Pause for Thought:  “Even now my witness is in Heaven; my advocate is on high.  My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as one pleads for a friend.”—Job 16:19-21.  When has someone stood up for you?  How does knowing Jesus stands at the right hand of God vouching for your body, soul, and spirit change the way you look at living life and taking risks for the Kingdom?)


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The Art of Recovery

Fishing Fletcher’s Floodwaters through the summer—Memorial Day to September—was a pleasure.  The water levels of the flooding stayed high enough to make for excellent catches of fish.  By Labor Day weekend, the water level diminished to the point all stumps and snags, once well below the water’s surface, lay exposed.  Fishing became problematic.  It was time to take slow boat rides and collect the summer’s lost fishing lures from their underwater tombs.  (Pause for Thought:  “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body will also rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay.”—Psalm 16:9-10.  When have you felt abandoned?  What circumstances (finances, relationships, work, etc.) seem to overwhelm you with dread and loneliness?  How have you been rescued from these circumstances in the past?)
 
It was a treasure hunt for my family and me.  My dad and I would get in our boat and my grandpa would get in his.  We meandered through the once submerged forest looking for shiny, colorful, patches on the starkly dark, gloomy, tree trunks and branches.  Often, the lures and baits were so corroded and decaying, the hooks would disintegrate as you pulled them from the bark and grime.  The rust and pitting betrayed how long the baits had been left and forgotten.  It became a contest amongst us as to who could collect the most and best baits.  (Pause for Thought:  “But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.’  ‘Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?  Though she may forget, I will not forget you!  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me’.”—Isaiah 49:14-16.  What emotional scars and distrust (fears) do you experience because of past abandonments?  Does knowing Jesus, through his crucifixion, empathizes and sympathizes with you help you to recover and, if yes, how?)
 

My grandpa would take the recovered lures, and using his God-given talents, restore them to pristine condition.  Many times the lures were improved with little flourishes and “touches” unique to my grandpa’s talents as a craftsman and fishermen.  Trolling lures received squirrel tail dressing to add life-like movement.  Spoons and jigs received fish-appropriate paint jobs that could withstand the stresses of rocks, wood, and fish teeth.  I loved receiving these baits back from my grandpa during Christmas and birthdays.  It was purposeful art created from long lost possessions recovered by those who took the time and effort to care.  (Pause for Thought:  “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.”—1 Peter 5:10.  How does this Holy Week culminating in Jesus’ resurrection and restoration to the throne help you in your current circumstances?  What joy do you have for your future now that sin, and its consequence of death, has been defeated?  What hope and strength can you gain from your association with Jesus’ suffering, death, and recovery from the grave?)


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Remember Me

“Remember me?” the gentleman asked as he plopped down into the vacant seat next to me while I drank my coffee in my favorite haunt.  The answer to his questions was, “No.”  He stated his name in a slur-mumble, combination, and I shook my head in unrecognition and doubt.  Our common ground was supposedly high school until he dropped out to become a professional boxer.  His story rang a bell in my sub-conscious, but I still couldn’t place him.     (Pause for Thought:  “Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other.  A scroll of remembrance was written in His presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored His name.”—Malachi 3:16.  Have you been recognized by someone you didn’t remember?  How did it make you feel?  Have you recognized someone who didn’t remember you?  What thoughts came to mind?)
 
He said he’d fallen on hard times, and he looked it.  His hand was poorly bandaged, and his clothes had seen better days.  He asked me for some money, but I had no cash or change.  Instead, I offered to buy him some food or drink from the coffee bar, and he determined an orange juice would suit him.  While we waited in line, he spoke of my hometown and the high school I went to; even mentioning names of people I was acquainted with over 30 years ago.  We had trod the same ground.  (Pause for Thought:  “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me’.”—Luke 22:19; “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.  Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.”—Luke 24:30-31  What strong memories do you have of certain meals?  Are they fond memories or hurt-filled ones?  Have you ever considered Christ eating a meal with you?  What do you imagine mealtime with Jesus looks and sounds like?)
 

He guzzled his orange juice in a minute and gave me a large, appreciative, smile.  He shook my hand and left the shop waving good-bye through the window.  My spirit was immediately filled with the image of the scripture, “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?’  The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’.”    (Pause for Thought:  “On the day I shall act’, says the Lord Almighty, ‘They will be my treasured possession.  I will spare them, just as the father has compassion and spares his son who serves him.  And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not’.”—Malachi 3:17-18  How important is it, for us, to remember and recognize God?  How do you remember and recognize Him?  How often do you do so?  How important, to you, is it for God to remember and recognize you?  What will He remember you for thinking and doing?)


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Gaining Perspective

I like to ask my son about his thoughts and feelings regarding serious world matters we encounter together.  It becomes a little puzzle game when he and I have an opportunity to really get at the heart of matters.  His perspective and mine often differ, and it makes for some good conversation.  For instance, last weekend, we were watching our favorite show, and the host ended the show with a spirited monologue detailing his feelings regarding injustices his town was experiencing.  I thought this a good opportunity to ask my son, “Whaddya Think?”     (Pause for Thought: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” – Proverbs 1:7  How often do you factor in God’s thoughts on a subject for your decision making?  How often does the Lord ask you, “What Do You Think”?)
 
I wanted my son to express his solution to the matter and see how he would accomplish the solution (i.e. laws, persuasive speeches, writing, etc.).  He determined to solve the matter by making everyone be Christians.  I asked him why, and he replied they would then know peace.  He explained people would go to church, and read the Bible, and therefore, demonstrate a peaceful, righteous, relationship with each other.  I asked him if reading the Bible and going to church had resulted in peace within his own house, and he determined it didn’t always.  We each confessed the way to peace isn’t in being a “Christian-Doing”, but by being in a continual conversation with God to gain His perspective on matters of living.  (Pause for Thought:  “So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.  For who is able to govern this great people of yours?  So God said to him, ‘Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have you asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked.  I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be’.”—I Kings 3:9-12  Can you name three things the Lord gives, without hesitation, to His people?  Why, do you suppose, people choose not to ask God for wisdom and insight.  Have you ever asked God for wisdom concerning a matter in your life?  What were the short and long term results?)
 
A young man named Solomon was in a difficult situation.  The governance and justice of an entire kingdom rested on his shoulders.  God asked him, “Whaddya Think?”  Solomon said he thought wisdom, God’s perspective on matters, would bring the “shalom” (highest-good, peace) he and his kingdom required.  In essence, a prayerful conversation ensued, and when Solomon continued to ask God, “Whaddya Think”, the path towards the highest-good was found by Solomon and the nation of Israel.  It’s amazing when my son and I ask each other for our thoughts on a matter; it’s God’s truths from his word that we truly hear in our souls; like the verse that came to use while discussing our thoughts on justice and what people needed in the situation we heard about:  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the PEACE that PASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”   (Pause for Thought:  “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord—and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.”—Isaiah 11:2-3a  How often do people seek your advice or perspective on a matter?  What is the basis/authority of your responses?  What will you ask God for this week?)
 

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The Way

“Which way do you think we should go,” I asked my uncle as we stood tired and shivering in the woods of upper Michigan.  History had taught me as soon as the truck was out of sight, my uncle was officially lost.  “That way,” he said pointing with his finger in the direction he thought we should start walking.  I did an about-face and started walking in the opposite direction.  We arrived at the truck within minutes.   (Pause for Thought:  “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.”—Proverbs 14:12.   Have you ever been lost?  How did being lost make you feel?  What thoughts passed through your mind?  Did these emotions and thoughts help or hurt your situation?)
 
It’s not surprising my uncle becomes befuddled when losing focus on where he’s come from and where he’s going.  His dad, my grandpa, would fail to arrive at our intended destination more than once during our outdoor adventures together.  Many times he would convince me to go with him to an obscure or relatively unknown fishing destination he found on a map.  Unfortunately, the minute he perceived the surroundings (roads, woods, etc.) to be “different” from the map directions; he would declare the map, or worse yet, the compass to be in error.  I can think of three such excursions in which we never arrived at the lake of opportunity.  I have since found all three lakes by trusting the map and compass.  (Pause for Thought: 
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”—John 14:6.  What do you use as a moral compass?  How accurate is it?  Do you trust and walk in the light of Jesus’ statement, “I am THE WAY”?  If not, why?)
 
Science has proven people can’t physically walk in a straight line unless their eyes are focused on a fixed point.  Spiritually speaking, ever since sin entered the world, we have been prone to wander off course and find it difficult to get and stay on the straight path without our souls being fixed on the Holy Spirit.  I can safely say I’ve had times in my journey with Christ when I didn’t understand the path He and I were walking.  However, the more I’ve learned to trust Him, and enter His word while fixed on His spirit, the pathway in this journey seems clearer.  It reminds me of Henry Frapp’s statement in the movie, The Mountain Men—I paraphrase, “Have I ever been lost?  I’ve been a mite confused for three of four months—but I ain’t never been lost!”   (Pause for Thought:  “I will instruct you and teach you in THE WAY you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”—Psalm 32:8.  How does it feel knowing God is fixed on you and your situations?  How have you listened and obeyed His counsel in the past?  What were the results?  What direction is He instructing you to take right now?  Will you follow?  Why or why not?)

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Cravings

The craving arrived right on time as it does every year.  Immediately after the holidays end and the excitement of football subsides, my ravenous appetite for fishing begins.  I start snacking on the new year’s fishing shows, pouring over fishing lure recipes, chewing on new lake maps, and feasting on new and old fishing dvd’s and encyclopedias. I seek out others with similar cravings to discuss new fishing lures, propose new fishing techniques and consider fish specifies left untouched by us in past ventures.   (Pause for Thought:  “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”—I Peter 2:2-3.   What are you passionate about?  How has your passions changed your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors?  How passionate are you about living for and with Jesus?)
 
Without question, the season’s best fishing information comes from Linder Media; specifically, the show and video library called Angling Edge.  The fishermen of this series are entertaining and informative.  They fish the same Mid-Western waters I do for common and uncommon freshwater fish species.  At the end of the shows, Al Linder, founder and hall of fame fisherman, hosts a small inspirational segment.  In the segment, Mr. Linder will discuss how his faith and relationship with Jesus has changed and continues to change his life.  Between the fishing information and the spiritual passion of Al Linder, it is no wonder I’m drawn to the series.  (Pause for Thought:  “Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water’.”—John 4:10.  How do you quench your passionate thirst for God?  Do you try pursuing Him without asking His advice?  What would you ask Him for to quench your cravings?  Have you ever asked God, through Jesus, to be filled with the Holy Spirit?)
 
I’m grateful Jesus had, and still has, a passion for fishermen and fishing (see Luke 5:1-7).  I have a passion to be where His spirit is, and he meets my spirit when I’m fishing–along with other times, places, and situations.  Through savory prayer and feeding on His Word, I can hear His voice and gather strength and instruction from His spirit.  Sunday worship in His house satisfies my spiritual appetite with awe and wonder as I digest the fact His kingdom is on earth and in heaven.
 
The purest form of interaction with Christ, and the one my soul craves the most, is when I engage (talk, listen, observe, work alongside, etc.) someone filled with the Holy Spirit.  Jesus becomes very real when I encounter a person who loves the Lord enough to ask to be like Him.  The Holy Spirit enables us to be like Jesus and enables us to be with Jesus.  Will you ask the Lord to fill you with His spirit and satisfy your cravings?  (Pause for Thought:  “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?”—Psalms 42:1-2.  “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I (Jesus) with them.”—Matthew 18:20.  Who do you know that is filled with the Holy Spirit?  How often do you spend time with them?  How do you know they are filled?  Will you ask them what it is like to be filled with the Spirit?)
 

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Sincere Flattery

To my four year-old mind, the greatest people living were my dad and cowboys.  Now I didn’t exactly understand what a plumber did, though I knew because my dad was one, we got to eat and live in a nice house. I knew cowboys punched cattle, ate outside, and shot pistols because I saw them do these things on TV.  The thing that brought these two icons together for me in my evaluation of greatness was shaving.  That’s right, shaving whiskers with a razor.  The great people in my life shaved.  I wanted to be great.  Therefore, I wanted a razor and shave, so I could be great too.   (Pause for Thought:  “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”—Ephesians 5:1-2.   Who did you imitate as a child?  Why?  Who do you imitate now?  Why?)
 
Oscar Wilde said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.”  As I finish these little articles regarding “living up” to God’s grace filled majesty through appreciation, devotion, and imitation, I realize I can never earn the place (Heaven) or position (Royal Priest) He has given me, but I look the part and give glory to God by being like His son, Jesus Christ, who GAVE.  Being who I am in Christ will result in my giving ME as a forGIVER, GIVER of tithes and offerings, GIVER of talents and abilities, GIVER of time and energy, GIVER of attention and encouragement, and so on.  Paul calls this living a life of sacrifice.  (Pause for Thought:  “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship”—Romans 12:1.  How have you consciously tried to imitate Jesus this week?  What were the results?  Were the results consistent with the results Jesus received?  How do you/can you know?)
 

I often ask my wife and son if I look like Jesus to them.  I don’t mean in physical appearance, and they don’t think as such.  If I have looked like Jesus to them, it’s been in the way I gave.  They don’t say I look like Jesus because I did my devotions, or taught a Sunday School class, or wrote an article.  They say I look like Jesus if I gave encouragement to them or someone else, or if I gave to someone in ministry out of my pocket, or if I gave love and attention to an unlovable/unnoticeable, or even if I gave my story (testimony) to someone who didn’t know Jesus the way I do. Cowboys gave, and still give, me great pleasure to watch.  My dad gave me a place (house) and position (physical) being on this earth.  My heavenly Father gave me completeness in everything, including all time (eternity), to share it with Him.  I think He is worth imitating.  (Pause for Thought:  “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 2:5.  How do you feel, emotionally, about living a life of sacrifice?  How is Paul’s instruction to us in Romans different than the world’s instruction to us?  What is happening and has happened when the world’s way is followed?  What happened to you because Jesus lived a sacrificial life?  Who will you imitate?)


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